Friday 15 December 2017

Who's who at the Brexit negotiations - The 'charming bast**d' and 'the most dangerous man in Europe'

EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier, right, and British Secretary of State David Davis prepare to shake hands as they arrive at EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, June 19, 2017 (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier, right, and British Secretary of State David Davis prepare to shake hands as they arrive at EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, June 19, 2017 (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Negotiations on the terms of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union are finally getting under way.

* Who's there?

Lead negotiators, David Davis and Michel Barnier, posed for the cameras on Monday morning (June 19 as planned) before several hours of initial discussions.

David Davis

The UK side is led by Brexit Secretary David Davis, the self-described "charming bastard" and committed Leaver who is spearheading the British negotiating effort.

Davis was appointed Secretary of State for exiting the EU on July 13, 2016, shortly after the shock result of the Brexit referendum.

From an undergrad of molecular science and computing, Davis then achieved a masters in business (London Business School) and later took the advanced business programme at Harvard.

David Davis

Before becoming an MP, Davis worked at Tate & Lyle, rising to become a senior executive in his 15 years with the firm.

On the opposite side is Michel Barnier, the French former foreign minister who is the European Commission's chief negotiator. They will each be accompanied by a team of senior officials.

Married with three children, Davis likes to write in his limited spare time - and enjoys walking in the countryside and mountaineering.

Michel Barnier

Sitting opposite Davis is the man who the Telegraph described in 2010 as “the most dangerous man in Europe” .

Michel Barnier, was appointed Chief Negotiator over the Task Force for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the UK since October 1, 2016.

Barnier first got involved in politics aged 15 as a young Gaullist but came to national prominence in 1986 when he won Albertville's bid to host the 1992 Winter Olympics in Savoy.

Michel Barnier

Diplomats have said he is "far from a soul mate for Britain" and is hostile to the “Anglo-Saxon” free market model of capitalism.

There have been suggestions that the arch-federalist still resents Britain after losing his job after the French government lost a referendum on the European Constitution. He served as France's foreign minister for just a year between 2004 and 2005.

When he held the role of EU commissioner for internal services between 2010 and 2014, he caused tensions with British ministers with calls for more financial regulation.

Speaking after the referendum vote, Mr Barnier said that shouldn't be "prisoner to the British question" during Brexit negotiations.

He has insisted that Britain will have to accept freedom of movement - "without exception or nuance" if it wants to retain access to the single market.

Married with three children, keen mountaineer Barnier spent the weekend in his native Alps "to draw the strength and energy needed" ahead of Brexit talks.

Other officials

The Brexit Secretary was flanked at the negotiating table by Olly Robbins, the senior civil servant at the Department for Exiting the European Union, and Sir Tim Barrow, the UK's ambassador to the EU.

Other officials at the table included:


* Glynn Williams: director general at the Home Office

* Mark Bowman: director general, international finance at HM Treasury

* Simon Case: director general, UK-EU partnership team

* Alex Ellis - director general at the Department for Exiting the European Unio

* Jane Walker - aide to David Davis

* Christian Jones - press secretary to David Davis


* What are they discussing?

Both sides agree a top priority is sorting out the rights of the 3.2 million EU nationals living in the UK and the 1.2 million British expats in the EU.

Furthermore, they want a reciprocal agreement although the Europeans say the British side does not appear to appreciate just what that involves.

Other issues that have to be sorted include the status of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Not least, there is the "divorce bill". The EU side has been suggesting it will be looking for a settlement of around £50 billion in respect of the UK's outstanding liabilities. British ministers insist the final sum will not be anything like that. Expect plenty of wrangling to come.

Michel Barnier

“We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit: first for citizens but also for beneficiaries of EU policies and the impact on borders – in particular Ireland,” said Barnier.

“I hope today we can identify priorities and the timetable that would allow me to report to the European council later this week that we had a constructive start.”

David Davis

“It is at testing times like these that we are reminded of the values and resolve that we share with our closest allies in Europe,” said Davis. “There is more that unites us than divides us.”

“We are starting with a positive and constructive tone, determined to build a strong and special relationship,” he added.

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